Top 5 Black Friday pitfalls to avoid

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Black Friday, which is on 24 November this year, offers tempting opportunities to snap up great deals on products ranging from tech gadgets to aftershave. However, our research has revealed time and again that the savings may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

It isn’t just too-good-to-be-true prices that you need to watch out for, though. You could end up buying a bad, fake or even dangerous product if you don’t know how to spot the warning signs. Follow our tips and check our our Black Friday guide to avoid the pitfalls and get the best deals this Black Friday, whether you’re buying tools for your trade or gifts for loved ones.

1. Fake Reviews

Many of us rely on customer reviews when deciding whether to buy something, but if these aren’t genuine you could be misled into purchasing a poor product. 

Reviewers are recruited on behalf of businesses – often on Facebook – and offered free items or vouchers in return for five-star reviews. Which? investigations have uncovered ‘review brokers’ who use fake profiles to create reviews that they sell for as little as £4 each. 

Signs that reviews for a business or product might be fake include a suspiciously high number of glowing five-star reviews, lots of reviews with photos or videos included, a lack of specifics about the reviewer’s experience of the product or service, and lots of reviews posted at the same time.

You can get a more realistic picture by focusing on reviews with four, three and two stars, which are more likely to be genuine, and sorting the reviews by the most recent rather than the ‘top’ ones. Also look out for reviews that mention a gift card or refund, which could indicate that the reviewer was given an incentive to post a positive review, or that the reviewer was asked to change a negative review.

Fakespot is an online tool that can help you identify fake reviews.

2. Shopping scams

Scam websites offer products at bargain prices to get the attention of shoppers, but then sell them fake or counterfeit items, or even ones that don’t actually exist.

If an offer looks too good to be true you should immediately be suspicious. Poor English, with strange wording or spelling and grammar mistakes, could be a sign that the website has been hastily put together for the purposes of a scam. There should always be contact information, including a telephone number or email address and location. 

Be wary of adverts on social media, especially if they’re from companies or brands you’ve never heard of, as well as new social media accounts advertising for companies you do know, which may have been set up by scammers impersonating them. Always take a look at the company’s official website as it’s likely you’ll find any deals there. 

Check that the branding is correct on adverts for companies you know, and if you click on a link, check that the URL matches the one on its official website.

Scam adverts can also appear on search engines such as Google – take extra care with ‘Shopping’ results and those marked ‘Ad’.

3. Fake and dangerous products

Products sold on online marketplaces, where you can buy from third-party sellers, are often unsafe as these sites don’t have the same responsibilities as regular online retailers for the safety of the products they sell. In 2020, our research found that a staggering 66% of the 250 products we bought from online marketplaces failed safety tests. 

As when looking out for shopping scams, you should be wary of offers that look too good to be true. The majority of dangerous products come from unknown brands or are unbranded, so stick to the familiar brand names you know and make sure any adverts are really for who they say they are.

Take time to research any product you’re interested in and the brand if you’ve never heard of it before. Look for UK contact details so it’ll be easier to get in touch if necessary, and don’t automatically trust its user reviews. If you’re buying tools, visit our tool reviews and advice guides to make sure you’re buying safe ones from reliable brands.

4. Bad deals

Just because a product is advertised as being discounted on Black Friday, or flagged up as a great deal, it doesn’t mean you’re being offered its best ever price. In 2022, our research found that 99.5% of the products promoted in Black Friday sales were sold at the same price or less at some point in the following six months — so there may be no need to rush to buy it.

To get something at the cheapest price possible, shop around and monitor price changes on comparison sites such as Google Shopping, Kelkoo and Price Runner.

Be sceptical about ‘was’ prices, as the item may not have been sold at that price for a very long. Wait until products are outside of their peak buying season and be aware of when specific retailers tend to promote products the most, which may not be around Black Friday. 

Other tricks to try include searching for discount codes online, using cashback sites, haggling using live chat and joining retailers’ mailing lists. You could also try logging into your account with a retailer and ‘abandoning’ your shopping cart without buying — you may be emailed a discount code.

5. Your consumer rights

When you’re buying something online, as more and more of us are doing, it’s important to know what your consumer rights are if there’s a problem, so you can get it resolved. There are also things you can do to increase the protection you get.

Paying by credit card for something that costs more than £100, and no more than £30,000, makes it easier to get your money back if things go wrong. You can then claim your money back from your credit card provider if you can’t get it back from the retailer. 

As you can’t inspect an item in person when you buy online, and you have to rely on the retailer’s description, for most items the retailer has to give you at least 14 days to decide if you want to keep it after it’s delivered to you. Once you let the retailer know you don’t, you get another 14 days to return the item. 

Visit our guide to your rights when buying online for more.